The Donna Summer Tribute Site

Summer Fever Pick for June 2017:

Mistaken Identity (1991)

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C'mon people let the groove begin...

What can I say about Mistaken Identity? It's got kind of a strange history. First of all, it seems to be one of those albums that fans either love or hate. There is very little middle ground. Personally, when the album came out in 91, I wasn't too fond of it as a whole (although certain tracks did jump out at me as being winners.  :-) ) But as time has passed, I've rediscovered it and grown to appreciate it a lot more. 

Mistaken Identity never really had the chance to prove its merit at the time it was released. It seemed to be cursed from the get go. First of all, Atlantic seemed to have trouble figuring out how Donna should follow up the success of Another Place And Time. (Something that was complicated by the impending breakup of the Stock Aitken Waterman team.) As a result, a whole bunch of tracks were recorded that ended up in the infamous "vault."  Then about the time the first single, When Love Cries, came out - Donna's sister passed away. Naturally enough, Donna's attention was focused on her family at that time, so no video was made for that crucial first single. That was pretty much the kiss of death for When Love Cries. By 1991 it was exceedingly difficult to promote a single without a video.  Adding to the situation was the resurgence of "the rumor" (see notes below), which served to both open up old wounds and to overshadow the album promotion. To put it mildly, 1991 just was not Donna's year, and as a result, Mistaken Identity  ended up in the discount rack way too soon. That's a shame because there are several tracks that I feel would have had good chart potential. But don't take my word for it - listen for yourself as you relive this month's Summer Fever pick: Mistaken Identity.  :-)

 

Other Art:

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Note: Some of these pictures were stolen from the old Forever Donna site run by Sandro.

 

friendsunknown1.jpg (29964 bytes) friendsunknown4.jpg (35364 bytes) friendsunknown6.jpg (33866 bytes)
friendsunknown2.jpg (27565 bytes) These are all pictures of Donna performing Friends Unknown at her Walk of Fame induction ceremony.

Photos courtesy of Warner at the old Donna Summer Showcase site. Thanks Warner!

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Video Captures:

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I apologize for the quality of these images - 
they were taken from a 3rd or 4th generation copy of the video.
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A Few Quotes:

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"On Mistaken Identity I've tried to make sure there is something for the dance and high energy crowd, something for the pop and rock music fans, something for urban/R&B listeners -- a little something for everybody. I feel that this album best represents me, because I've always liked exploring many different types of music. I don't want to be one-sided, and this is the musical statement I needed to make." 

- Donna Summer, Mistaken Identity press kit 1991

"...The singer cuts loose here, consistently testing and expanding the boundaries of her range. This is most evident on the stirring ballad Friends Unknown and tribal, single-worthy Cry Of A Waking Heart."

- Billboard Magazine, September 7, 1991

"On the surface, the album sounds like a bid for approval from the Madonna/ Paula Abdul generation. Deeper investigation, however, reveals a  number of intricate, tightly constructed songs that could place her among more adult contemporaries like Gladys Knight and Regina Belle."

- Billboard Magazine, September 7, 1991

BONUS AUDIO CLIP: Donna talking about having blonde hair for the album cover on CNBC's Talk Live in 1991.
"Get Ethnic is about having pride in what you are.. In the US there is a tendency to de-emphasize your background, but at some point people should be free to be who they are. Be yourself, because that is what makes this country interesting."

- Donna Summer, Mistaken Identity press kit 1991

BONUS AUDIO CLIP: Donna talking about Get Ethnic on CNBC's Talk Live in 1991.
"When you watch all of these new dances, you can see people really talking with their bodies. When guys go out, they don't need to say 'Hey baby, I love you,' when they're saying so much with their body language. That is what the essence of the song is about: 'I can hear your body talk.'"

- Donna Summer, Mistaken Identity press kit 1991

"When we started writing Work That Magic, Keith Diamond had just fallen in love, so we were writing from a frame of reference of real intensity and passion. It's a feeling you can't hide, a fidgetiness in your soul where you wait breathlessly for the next time you are going to hear from the person you love.  And the man and the woman meet, fall in love, and it's magic."

- Donna Summer, Mistaken Identity press kit 1991

on When Love Cries:

"Eve Nelson came into town, and she had written this groove. I started singing to the groove in the car, and we taped the words, so we captured the song's feel immediately. We wanted to keep it very simple and very emotional and make it the cry of a woman who's alone and away from the man she loves."

- Donna Summer, Mistaken Identity press kit 1991

"Keith played [Heaven's Just A Whisper Away] for me the first day in the studio. I thought it was a really romantic, beautiful, emotional song. I fell in love with it, and we recorded it."

- Donna Summer, Mistaken Identity press kit 1991

"When the song was sent to me I couldn't imagine singing it. My husband said, 'Listen to the song again.' I put it on and he sang it to me and said, 'This is you.' There's this incredible line that goes, 'Behind the familiar the view is strange,' and that just blew me away. I think Cry [Of A Waking Heart] is definitely a love song, but it's about two people who realize that if they're going to continue, they have to set each other free."

- Donna Summer, Mistaken Identity press kit 1991

"I love all the songs on Mistaken Identity, but my personal favorite is Friends Unknown. This is the first time I had a chance to thank my audience directly and say it in a song. When you're on stage you say, 'Thank you so much,' but it always sounds so trite. My best asset is my voice, so when I sing something, I know my fans will get the message. I'm more than thankful for every time that they were there. When I shed a tear, when I need a prayer, or when I just need an uplift, a little note comes that says 'I love you' or 'Thank you for your music.' That really means a lot to me, and this was a nice chance to say 'thank you' back."

- Donna Summer, Mistaken Identity press kit 1991

BONUS AUDIO CLIP: Donna talking about Friends Unknown in a 1991 interview.
"[Fred Astaire is] a hang out with the gang and party kind of song. Everybody's out there dancing and looking for the right person, the one who's going to dance best with them."

- Donna Summer, Mistaken Identity press kit 1991

"[Say A Little Prayer is] about a girl getting dressed up to go out and land the Mr. Right. She's dressed to kill, hoping it will help her get the guy. We wrote it at the beginning phases of recording the album, and I loved the idea of the song."

- Donna Summer, Mistaken Identity press kit 1991

Mistaken Identity is a socially critical song. I got the idea when I heard about that assault on a man in Los Angeles, where he was beaten by several police officers while others stood by and watched. To the best of my knowledge, it wasn't the first time this sort of thing had happened. I just felt I had to comment about it, so I distanced the song from the actual event by putting myself in Rodney King's place. In the song I am arrested by the police, but I didn't commit the crime."

- Donna Summer, Mistaken Identity press kit 1991

BONUS AUDIO CLIP: Donna talking about Mistaken Identity on CNBC's Talk Live in 1991.
"[What Is It You Want is] our comedy track. Everybody's made up of a lot of different colors, and I wanted this album to express different sides of my character through the songs. My gentleness, my weakness, my strength, my humor, and what I'm driven by are all there. I originally wanted to call this song The Laugh Track.

- Donna Summer, Mistaken Identity press kit 1991

"[Let There Be Peace] was written at the beginning of the Gulf War. I was sitting in my kitchen when I heard the news, and suddenly I felt goose bumps all over my body. Thinking about all those people going over there, my heart was filled with tears. I found myself wishing I had so much authority that I could proclaim peace."

- Donna Summer, Mistaken Identity press kit 1991

 

The Tracks:

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Click the audio icon to hear a clip in streaming MP3 format

1. Get Ethnic (D. Summer, K. Diamond, P. Chiten,  A. Smith,  L. Henley)
2. Body Talk (D. Summer, K. Diamond, E. Nelson, A. Smith, L. Henley)
3. Work That Magic (D. Summer, K. Diamond, E. Nelson, A. Smith, L. Henley)
4. When Love Cries (D. Summer, K. Diamond, E. Nelson, A. Smith, L. Henley)
5. Heaven's Just A Whisper Away (K. Diamond, A. Smith, L. Henley)
6. Cry Of A Waking Heart (B. Cook, B. Woolley)
7. Friends Unknown (D. Summer, K. Diamond, A. Smith, V. Smith)
8. Fred Astaire (D. Summer, K. Diamond, A. Smith, D. Wyant)
9. Say A Little Prayer (D. Summer, K. Diamond, A. Smith, D. Wyant)
10. Mistaken Identity (D. Summer, K. Diamond, A. Smith, D. Wyant)
11. What Is It You Want (D. Summer, K. Diamond, A. Smith, D. Wyant, V. Lawrence, D. Resnik)
12. Let There Be Peace (D. Summer, K. Diamond)

 

Videos:

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Friends Unknown live from the Walk Of Fame Ceremony

The Work That Magic video

Heaven's Just A Whisper Away live

Say A Little Prayer live

 

Other Stuff:

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Mistaken Identity was Donna's second (and final) album for Atlantic Records.
The first single was When Love Cries, but no video was ever made for it. Donna's sister, Andrea, passed away about the time the album was released so understandably, the last thing on Donna's mind was making videos.
There was a video for Work That Magic that unfortunately is rarely seen. Unlike some of Donna's previous videos, this one had no clear plot line - it was a surreal series of scenes that take on a dreamlike quality. It's too bad that it is so hard to find. In my opinion it is one of Donna's more interesting videos to date. 
Let There Be Peace was written at the time of the Gulf War, but it was rediscovered by many fans in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. 
Although the song Mistaken Identity was inspired by the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles, some fans felt that the song could also have been about "the rumor" as well.  (See notes below.)  With lyrics like: No one cared to listen/Someone had to take the heat/Sometimes there's no justice and Don't make her pay the price/She's not guilty, some people thought Donna was reacting to the accusations against her.
Donna sang Friends Unknown at the Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony when she got her star.
Mistaken Identity was produced by Keith Diamond, who passed away of a heart attack in 1997. There used to be a website that posted some of the various tributes to Keith and they included this quote from Donna: Keith the boy, Keith the man, Keith the friend, Keith the brother, Keith the son, can never be forgotten because he carved, with love, his name on the very flesh of our hearts.
In 2014 the album was remastered and released as a deluxe edition both as a stand alone item and as part of a box set of the 80s material.  The deluxe edition included the following bonus remixes:

When Love Cries (single version remix)
When Love Cries (Vocal Club Dub aka Summertime Remix)
Work That Magic (Isa extended remix)

 

Notes:

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A little background on "the rumor": This is a subject I hate to bring up on the site because I know it stirs up strong (and sometimes painful) emotions. But in light of things that were happening when Mistaken Identity came out, I feel a little background information is appropriate. As many of you know, back in the mid 80s, Donna was accused of saying that AIDS was God's retribution against gays. Now, she NEVER made that statement, and has consistently denied saying it, but that didn't stop New York Magazine from printing it in early 1991. Donna sued the magazine, and consequently, interviews that would normally have focused on the new album ended up focusing on the lawsuit instead. 
A little background on the Rodney King case: Most Americans are already familiar with this case, but those of you outside of the country might not know the story. This is going to be overly simplified, but I'll give you enough to get the general idea what happened.  

In a nutshell, Rodney King was a black man in Los Angeles who got pulled over for speeding, and who ended up being beaten badly by a bunch of white police officers. (He was beaten badly enough to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance.) Police say he attacked them first, King denied it - but what kept this from becoming just a case of his word against theirs, was a fair number of eye-witnesses and more importantly, a videotape of the beating. The video was widely shown on US television and it brought to the forefront questions of racism and police brutality. In the end, several police officers were brought up on charges and then later acquitted. The acquittal sparked riots in Los Angeles. If you were here in the US at the time, the case was BIG. Everybody was talking about it and watching it unfold. 

If you are interested in reading more about the case, just search the web for "Rodney King." There are plenty of sites that go into much greater detail than I can here.

 

Purchase Info:

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The original Mistaken Identity is out of print, but you can sometimes find copies for sale at gemm.com, musicstack.com or ebay.com. The 2014 Deluxe edition is available at Amazon UK,  as is the 12" single box set.

     

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